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Nationals 4-0 over Padres in Petco: Jeremy Hellickson perfect through six before giving up a single...

Jeremy Hellickson sent 18-straight San Diego Padres back to the dugout before giving up a leadoff single in the 7th inning of the Washington Nationals’ 4-0 win in Petco Park.

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Washington Nationals v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Jeremy Hellickson, in one of the unlikelier/unlikeliest(?) bids for a perfect game, retired the first eighteen San Diego Padres’ batters he faced on Tuesday night in Petco Park before he gave up a leadoff single to center by Travis Jankowski in the first at bat of the seventh inning.

Hellickson left the game after 6 23 IP, having given up the leadoff single by Jankowski and a two-out hit by Franchy Cordero, but with runners on second and third, Ryan Madson came on and got the final out of the inning to keep it 3-0 in the Washington Nationals’ favor.

A run on a sac fly by Andrew Stevenson in the ninth made it 4-0, after an RBI double by Matt Adams, RBI single by Pedro Severino, and an RBI double by Hellickson led to the other three runs.

Hellboy vs Padres: Jeremy Hellickson tossed 5 23 scoreless against the Pittsburgh Pirates last time out before tonight, working around three hits in a 61-pitch effort that ended with Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez pulling the veteran starter after a two-out single in the sixth.

“I don’t like doing it,” Martinez said, “because he’s pitching his butt off, but I’ve got to think about the other 25 guys, and he kept us in the ballgame, that’s all we ask him to do is keep us in the game.”

With his late start to the season, however, and struggles the third time through the lineup in his career, Martinez thought it was the right move to remove Hellickson.

“He’s been really good for five innings, he really has, and I anticipate that he’ll give us some more length as the weather gets hotter and he gets going,” Martinez explained.

Tonight in San Diego’s Petco Park, the right-hander retired the first 18 Padres’ batters he faced through six perfect innings before Travis Jankowski took a 2-1 slider to center field, connecting for the first hit.

Hellickson was up to 83 pitches at that point, and a two-out single to left field by Franchy Cordero ended the Nationals’ starter’s outing after 91 pitches.

Jeremy Hellickson’s Line: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 91 P, 59 S, 6/5 GO/FO.

Richard’s Struggles: Padres’ left-hander Clayton Richard was winless in four starts heading into tonight’s game, with San Diego 0-3 in those outings, in which the 34-year-old lefty had a 6.97 ERA, 13 walks, 19 Ks, and a rough .306/.404/.541 line against in 20 23 innings pitched.

Richard was, however, facing a Nationals team that had a combined .220/.316/.368 line vs lefties, which had them ranked 12th/8th/11th across the line amongst NL teams this season.

He held them to one hit through four, on just 50 pitches, but Howie Kendrick singled to left start the fifth, and scored from first base on an RBI double to left-center by Matt Adams that drove in the first run of the game, 1-0, and it was 2-0 when Pedro Severino singled to left on a high 3-0 fastball for an RBI single that brought Adams in from third after he’d taken a base on the throw in to the plate on his own hit.

Pedro Severino, with a double to left-center, and Jeremy Hellickson, with an RBI double by third, connected for back-to-back two-out hits in the seventh as the Nationals went up 3-0.

Clayton Richard’s Line: 8.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 102 P, 72 S, 11/3 GO/FO.

Adams vs LHPs: In spite of his struggles against left-handed pitchers (2 for 9 after a home run last night, .207/.240/.362 vs LHPs in his career), Davey Martinez decided to start Matt Adams against Padres’ lefty Clayton Richard tonight, telling reporters that the starter relied heavily on his fastball (55% of his pitches) which made for a good matchup.

Adams, who was 10 for 25 (.400/.516/1.240) with seven home runs, six walks, and three Ks in his last seven games before tonight’s, went down swinging at a 3-2 slider outside in his first trip to the plate, 0 for 1.

Howie Kendrick was on first after singling when Adams stepped in for the second time and hit a 1-2 slider outside to left-center for an opposite RBI double that put the Nationals up, 1-0. 1 for 2.

Pedro Severino followed with an RBI single to left on a 3-0 fastball, bringing Adams in, 2-0.

Harper?: Bryce Harper’s move to the leadoff spot stopped the walks, (he’d taken just two in the seven games since Davey Martinez moved him to the top of the order), but he was just 6 for 29 (.207/.258/.655) in the last seven games before tonight’s matchup in Petco Park, with a double, four home runs, two walks, and four Ks over that stretch, and he was hitless in his last 15 at bats going back to his back-to-back home runs off Nick Pivetta in the first of three with the Phillies in D.C. last weekend.

Harper K’d swinging at a 91 mph 1-2 fastball the first time up against Clayton Richard, 0 for his last 16, and sent a sharp, one-hop grounder into the shift for an out in his second at bat, 0 for 17.

With a runner on second and two out in the fifth, Harper fell behind 0-2 quickly, and K’d swinging over a fastball, 0 for 3 tonight, 0 for his last 18, and a fly to left in the top of the eighth left the Nationals’ slugger 0 for 4 on the night and 0 for his last 19.

BULLPEN ACTION: With Jeremy Hellickson’s bid for perfection over and runners on second and third in the seventh, Davey Martinez went to the bullpen for Ryan Madson, who got a weak grounder to short with his second pitch to keep it a 3-0 game after seven in Petco.

Brandon Kintzler got the eighth for the Nationals, giving up a leadoff single before getting a 6-3 DP and a weak groundout for out No. 3.

Two singles and walk for the Nationals loaded the bases against Padres’ right-hander Adam Cinder in the top of the ninth, and Andrew Stevenson battled in an 11-pitch at bat before sending a sac fly to center to bring in the Nationals’ 4th run, 4-0.

Wander Suero came on in the bottom of the ninth, and after saving himself with a defensive catch on a liner back to the mound, worked around a one-out walk for a scoreless frame.

Ballgame.

Final Score: 4-0 Nationals

Nationals now 20-17